8 Signs That an Employee is Using Drugs

May 24, 2023 | Addiction, Drug Usage Archives, Mental Health, Substance Abuse

Drug addiction is a serious problem worldwide, and the effects of this are felt directly in the workplace. Drug use of any kind can have a big impact on a person’s physical and mental health, as well as their personal and professional life. For employers, it can also be a major concern if an employee is using drugs, as it can affect their job performance, safety, and the well-being of their coworkers. In this article, we will discuss some of the most frequently observed signs that an employee may be using drugs.

1. Altered Appearance: One of the most noticeable signs that an employee may be using drugs is a sudden change in their appearance. They may appear disheveled or unkempt, with messy hair, stained clothing, and poor hygiene. They may also have bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, or a constant runny nose. In some cases, they may also have needle marks on their arms, legs, or other areas of their body.

2. Changes in Behavior: Drug use can also cause significant changes in a person’s behavior. For example, they may become more withdrawn or isolated from their coworkers, or they may become more aggressive or irritable. They may also exhibit mood swings, ranging from extreme highs to severe lows. They may have trouble concentrating or remembering things, and they may be more forgetful than usual.

3. Job Performance: Drug use can also have a large impact on an employee’s job performance. They may become less productive or have difficulty completing tasks on time. They may also have more accidents or make more mistakes than usual. In some cases, they might be absent from work more frequently or call in sick more often.

4. Changes in Relationships with Coworkers: Drug use can also affect an employees’ relationships with their coworkers. They may become more secretive or defensive about their behavior, and they may avoid interacting with others as much as possible. They may also become more confrontational or aggressive with their coworkers, leading to conflicts or disputes.

5. Financial Problems: Drug addiction can also cause significant financial problems for an employee. They may have trouble paying their bills or meeting their financial obligations, leading to increased stress and anxiety. They may also be more likely to ask for loans or borrow money from their coworkers, which can cause tension or resentment in the workplace.

6. Physical Symptoms: Drug use can also cause a range of physical symptoms, depending on the type of drug and the frequency of use. For example, employees who are using stimulants may have a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and a loss of appetite. Those using opioids may experience drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. Employees who are using inhalants may have headaches, nausea, and dizziness, while those using hallucinogens may experience visual disturbances, paranoia, or confusion.

7. Legal Problems: Drug addiction can also lead to legal problems for an employee. They may be arrested or charged with drug-related offenses, which can have serious consequences for their job and their future. They may also have a criminal record, which can make it difficult to find employment in the future.

8. Increased Tardiness and Absenteeism: It is often difficult to make it to work on time if you have been drinking heavily or using drugs.  If you notice an increase in tardiness and/or absenteeism, your employee may be abusing alcohol or drugs.

What Contributes To Employee Drug Use?

The logic behind why employees use drugs can vary greatly, but could be a result of the following:

  • Stress: High levels of stress at work or in one’s personal life can lead some employees to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope.
  • Peer pressure: Being around coworkers who use drugs or alcohol can create a sense of social pressure to do the same.
  • Accessibility: Some employees may have easy access to drugs or alcohol while on the job, which can make it more difficult for them to resist.
  • Work environment: Certain industries or job positions may be more susceptible to drug use due to the nature of the work, such as high-pressure or physically demanding jobs.
  • Mental health issues: Employees who struggle with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate.
  • Lack of support: Those who feel unsupported or undervalued be more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with feelings of low self-esteem or dissatisfaction.
  • Addiction: Addiction can take over a person’s life and make anything other than drinking or using drugs unimportant. Employees who struggle with addition often need treatment in order to help them break the cycle of addiction.
Tips For Addressing The Issue

If you suspect that an employee may be using drugs, you’ll want to address the issue as soon as possible. Ignoring the problem can lead to serious consequences for both the employee and the company. It may begin to have a trickle effect, where other employees are impacted as well. Here are some helpful steps you can take:

Talk to the Employee: The first step in any situation is to talk to the employee in question. Approach the conversation in a non-judgmental way and express your concern for their well-being. Explain that their behavior has raised some red flags and that you want to help them get the support they need. This gives them the chance to be honest and can help preserve the relationship, should they choose to get help.

Offer Support: Though this may seem obvious, offering support is another important step to take. Offer the employee resources to help them overcome their addiction and let them know that you are there to help them should they need it. You might also offer to connect them with an employee assistance program, provide access to counseling or treatment services, or refer them to a local support group.

Document the Situation: Document the situation in writing, including specific incidents or observations that have led you to suspect drug use. This documentation will be important if you need to take disciplinary action or terminate the employee’s employment. Think of it as a way to protect yourself as well as the employee in the long run.

Follow Company Policy: Though this may seem like common sense, following your company’s policy on drug use and addiction is important for your own liability. This may include drug testing, disciplinary action, or termination of employment. Be sure to follow the proper procedures and protocols to protect yourself and your company from legal repercussions.

Consider Professional Assistance: Seeking the assistance of a professional to help manage the situation can be beneficial, depending on the specifics. This could include an addiction specialist, a human resources consultant, or an employment attorney. In any situation, involving a third party is important and can be a source of support.

Approach the situation with sensitivity and empathy, while also maintaining a professional demeanor. Drug addiction is a serious issue, and it is vital to provide support and resources to help the employee overcome their addiction and return to a healthy and productive life.

Drug addiction can have serious consequences for both employees and employers. By recognizing the signs of drug use and taking appropriate action, you can help ensure the safety and well-being of your employees and protect your company from legal and financial risks. If you suspect that an employee may be using drugs, it is important to address the issue promptly and with compassion. With the right support and resources, employees can overcome addiction and return to a healthy and productive life.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you have an employee who is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, New Dimensions can help.  We have Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs that are structured to allow most employees to continue working while they receive help.  We also offer Alcohol and Drug Abuse Interventions which can be an important step in helping your employees get the help that they need.  To learn more about our treatment programs for adolescents and adults, visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com or call us at 800-685-9796.


Keywords: Drug addiction; drug use in the workplace; employee drug use; signs that an employee is using drugs